Thanks to the high antioxidant content of plant-based diets, they are incredibly powerful for promoting recovery from exercise. Still, there are some strategies we can adopt to maximise our efforts further and capitalise on all the hard work we put in during the training. Remember, it’s during recovery from exercise, not during the exercise itself, that our bodies and muscles are repairing, adapting and growing. So recovery is at least equally as important as exercise for making significant improvements in our performance and strength and fitness goals.
Let’s revisit hydration. Most athletes finish training or competitions in a fluid deficit, so the goal is to adequately and safely rehydrate during the recovery period. It’s recommend to drink up to 1.5L of fluid for every kilo lost during exercise – that’s because sweat losses and obligatory urine losses continue in the post-exercise phase, so effective rehydration requires an intake of a greater volume of fluid than the amount lost during exercise. It’s also best not to restrict salt from the diet in your post-exercise nutrition because it can help you retain the ingested fluids, rather than just excreting most of it in the urine.
What should that post-exercise meal look like? It’s recommended that athletes consume a mixed meal after exercise containing carbohydrates, protein and fat, alongside plenty of fluids. One of the key goals of the post-exercise meal is to replenish those glycogen stores. The rate of glycogen resynthesis – how fast your body converts the carbohydrates you eat into glycogen for storage in the muscles and liver – is only about 5% per hour. So, an early intake of carbohydrates in the recovery period is useful in maximising that effective refuelling window. This is especially important when there is another bout of exercise anticipated the same day or in successive days.
Of course, for recovery, your protein intake is very important too. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which act as the building blocks needed to form the structural basis of most of the body’s tissues, such as skeletal muscle, ligaments, bones, skin, hormones, enzymes, and cells in our blood like red blood cells and immune cells. For most people it’s easy to get plenty of protein from plants, especially with a little planning. Here’s how to calculate how much protein you need:
0.75 x your weight (kg) = daily protein requirement (g)
e.g. for someone weighing 80kg: 0.75 x 80 = 60g protein per day
While this is the average requirement, calculated to meet the needs of most of the UK population, it’s well established that increasing your protein intake can be beneficial if you’re exercising regularly and have goals of increasing your strength or fitness.
For endurance-based athletes, increasing protein intake up to 1.2 x bodyweight has been shown to be optimal:
e.g. for someone weighing 80kg: 1.2 x 80 = 96g protein per day.
For strength-based athletes, increasing protein intake further up to 1.6-2.0 x bodyweight has been shown to be optimal:
e.g. for someone weighing 80kg: 1.6-2.0 x 80 = 128-160g protein per day
These amounts are based on athletes who are training hard and with a healthy body mass index (BMI). If you’re overweight, or not training intensely at least several times a week, your requirements are likely to be lower.
Bear in mind that spreading your protein intake throughout the course of the day appears to be much more effective for promoting muscle repair and growth than fewer, bigger meals. Studies show that consuming 20-30g protein (suitable for the typical range of athlete body sizes) in several meals or snacks distributed throughout the day will promote muscle growth more effectively than concentrating protein intake into one or two larger meals. So getting some protein in that post-exercise meal is a great way to spread out your intake most effectively.
We’ll get into how to reach these targets in the meal plan section, where you’ll see just how easy it is, especially with the help of high protein Vivo Life products like Perform, containing an impressive 25g protein, including 6g of BCAAs, which are shown to particularly maximise muscle repair and synthesis.